The winner of the fight between Eddie Machen and Floyd Patterson in Stockholm this Sunday may be the first man to challenge Cassius Clay for the heavyweight championship. The loser, quite possibly, will never fight again, and the loser, most probably, will be Floyd Patterson. Patterson, after two brief and disastrous appearances against Sonny Liston, won a notably unimpressive victory over Sante Amonti in Stockholm on January 6. He needs a win against Machen to prove that he is a competent enough challenger for Clay. Machen, at 31, is making a belated comeback after having been sidelined for a year by a nervous breakdown brought on in almost equal measure by financial trouble and the frustrations of a boxing career that often brought him to the brink of a championship fight without ever putting him in the ring with a champion.
As the two men prepared for the bout last week, it was Machen who seemed the more confident and in the better frame of mind. "I been waiting seven years for Patterson," he said cheerfully. "It has been a very long time and, quite naturally, I became impatient. But I fully believe that I am ready. I have viewed several motion pictures of Patterson and of course I have seen him fight, and I am sure I can defeat him."
He was in the living room of a small suite in the comfortable Apollonia Hotel in Stockholm, where he has lived since the first of June. "Floyd used to say I was an IBC fighter and for that reason he declined to meet me in the ring. That was when he was with Cus D'Amato, and there were quite a few IBC fighters around. At least what he called IBC, which was the same thing as good." Machen looked at his hands, inspecting carefully manicured nails. "Quite naturally, I am not underestimating Floyd," he said. "He is a very good man."
Patterson is training in Ronneby, a resort town on the southern coast of Sweden, about 300 miles from Stockholm. Not far from Ronneby, in Denmark, is Elsinore, where Hamlet played out his tragedy. Elsinore would have been a good camp for Patterson. Withdrawn and introspective, he works out in a warehouse that was converted into a gym by Dan Florio, his trainer. His workouts are attended by standing-room-only crowds of Swedes who cheer every time he lays a glove on one of his sparring partners, but Patterson's face never changes expression.
July 5, 1964
One day last week he boxed three rounds—one each with Greatest Crawford, Shotgun Shelton and his brother Ray—to the intense delight of the spectators. After he had finished sparring, he punched the light bag briefly, stopping once to beckon to one of his trainers, who trotted over quickly. "Air," said Patterson. The trainer trotted back to his equipment bag and returned with a bicycle pump with which he inflated the punching bag a bit more. Patterson finished his workout and the crowd cheered lustily. He ducked his head in acknowledgment and left the arena, having said one word during the 30-odd minutes he had worked out.
"He is in a much better mood than he was before the Liston fights," insisted Dan Florio, who has been Patterson's trainer for 12 years. "I can tell by the way he works and by the way he runs. He ain't training any different, because why should he? But he is happier."
Patterson has broken his routine several times to appear in small towns around Ronneby to make luncheon talks, at one of which he told the audience that he would like to live in Sweden six months of the year after he retires. He spends some of his time looking at movies of Machen's fight with Hurricane Jackson. He has sent movies of his last fight with Ingemar Johannson and his fight with Roy Harris to the Machen camp.
"If Patterson is looking to see the same Machen as fought Jackson, he's going to be surprised." said Al Silvani, who has been training Machen since August of last year. "I been working with Eddie for a year, but I used to watch him a long time before that. I see him fight guys like Zora Folley. He stands back all the time. He jabs. He don't go in underneath. I say to myself, what is this? If this boy can go inside, if he can be aggressive, who is going to beat him? No one, that's who."
Silvani was in the small room he occupies in the Apollonia and he got up from his chair. "He was fighting straight up with a stiff left leg," he said. "Like this." He stood up straight with a stiff left leg. "He couldn't move in and bob and weave and rip and tear underneath. You got to get down a little to do that, and you got to bend your left leg to get down. So when Walter Minskoff got Eddie's contract and asked me to train him, I was very happy to."
He sat down. "I didn't come on strong with Eddie," he said. "I had him for three months, when he was first coming back from his trouble, before he ever went into the ring with anyone. I didn't let on like I was the big man knew everything. Everybody in his own mind, he is a superior person, so you don't start off by telling him, look I know everything and you don't know nothing. So I moved very gentle with Eddie and finally I says to him, 'Eddie, why don't you move in underneath and fight on the inside?' And he says to me with his own mouth, 'Al, I don't know the moves.' So I taught him the moves. I didn't change his style because he has got a good style and a great left hook, but I give him some moves so he can go underneath and become aggressive."
Silvani made Machen spar with only one glove while he was learning to hook to the body with the left and to hook off a jab. Then he took off the left glove and put one on the right hand and went over the right-hand moves.
"It wasn't hard," Silvani explained. "Eddie's got the feet. He moves his feet good and that's where it starts. The hands follow the feet. You got to be able to move on your feet and stay on balance, and Eddie could do that. He is a good athlete."
Machen has had five fights since Minskoff and Silvani came into the picture and he has won all five by knockouts. "I feel better now," he said in Sweden last week. "I think better. I don't remember the bad time very well. They tell me about it, but I don't remember." Vince Correnti, who owns a car-wash business in San Francisco and 10% of Machen, is one of the people who can tell Eddie about it. "I've known Eddie 10 years," he said in Machen's dressing room in a gymnasium at Solna, a suburb of Stockholm. "He used to come into my place, and we got to be real good friends. And then this one afternoon he comes in, he looks worried. Eddie was one of Sid Flaherty's fighters, never saw any money, got fights on too short notice, and now it is just before Christmas and I know he hasn't got any money, but I don't know how worried he is. So we talk in my office a little while. Then I get a call and I've got to go out back for a while, and when I get back to the office Eddie is gone. He went off in my car, but I always let him use it, so I don't think anything about it. Then, about an hour later, I get a call and this cop says. 'Do you know Eddie Machen?' and I say, 'Yes.' " Machen had taken Correnti's white Chevrolet convertible and started for Redding, Calif., where he was raised. In the glove compartment of the car was a pistol: Correnti is a deputy sheriff with a permit to carry the gun. When the car ran out of gas, Eddie found the pistol and fired three shots out of it into an embankment beside the road, although now he doesn't remember doing that. A passing motorist heard the shots and called the police. When they arrived, Machen was sitting quietly in the car, the pistol on the seat beside him, and he told the police, "I'm thinking of killing myself."
"They took me to Napa for observation," Machen said in Sweden. "I don't remember any of this. Vince came to see me, and someone said I talked to Joe Louis and Archie Moore, but I don't remember any of it. I know I needed $3,000 and it was Christmas time and I couldn't get it and I couldn't sleep. I couldn't sleep after they started taking care of me, either. I couldn't relax. I felt like I had to go and go. And then they gave me the electric treatment."
Machen recovered quickly from the breakdown. Walter Minskoff and his brother, who are building contractors and real estate dealers in Los Angeles and New York, bought up his contract in partnership with Correnti, and Machen's financial problems were over, since the Minskoffs pay him $1,000 per month against his earnings. Under Silvani he gained confidence as a fighter as well. "When I was younger, I got in bad," Machen said. "I got in with some bad people. There was a ring of us, and we took turns robbing places. We had a big silver barrel gun and people remembered it and we got caught, seven times altogether. And then Soledad, and I spent three years there." Machen was 23 when he was released from prison at Soledad, and he began fighting then. He talks frankly about prison and about his nervous breakdown. "Now I feel better and stronger and surer of myself. I am not confused."
In the heart of Stockholm, surrounded by friends and newfound well-wishers, Eddie Machen goes about his business cheerfully and calmly. "This is one I don't got to worry about," said Al Silvani. "I had Tami Mauriello, you know. A great fighter. I used to say to him, 'Tami, it ain't the punches in the ring makes a fighter punchy. It's the taps on the back from his friends, all those people hitting him on the back saying you're the greatest, buddy. When he loses, they all go away.' Tami comes to workouts with six, eight people. I say, 'Tami, what's this? You got to work.' He says, 'Al, they're my friends.' In a little while the friends pat him on the back so much he can't get his breath. But Eddie, he's been there, that ain't going to happen to him."
But fights, of course, are won in the ring. In Ronneby against mediocre sparring partners, Patterson was the same Patterson. He has an unfortunate habit of planting himself flat-footed against ah attack or when he is going to launch an offense. This habit cost him two knockouts at the hands of Liston and knockdowns at the hands of far less talented fighters like Roy Harris and Pete Rademacher. He has little ability to move on his feet. ("He is fast from the waist up, but not from waist down," said Machen.) He cannot move laterally, so that he will not be able to slide away from Machen's left hook or from his strong right hand. Patterson has quick hands and a quick head in avoiding punches, but he tends to depend too much on his hands and his head and not enough on his feet.
Finally, he has the most grievous of faults in a heavyweight—he gets knocked down. "I got a stronger head," said Machen, who has been knocked off his feet only once (by Johansson in the first round when Machen came into the ring cold). "I got a better head. Quite naturally, you got to be a better man in the ring with a strong head."